‘Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer’ Enables Continuous Environmental Reporting

art-316-01A screenshot of the ‘Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer’ platform, featuring datasets on Malaysia’s freshwater ecosystems

A new tool is now available for governments to continue reporting freshwater ecosystems and keep track of their efforts to restore and preserve a healthy environment despite limited movements in many countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer’ is a free and easy-to-use data platform that provides the latest, high-resolution geospatial data displaying the extent to which freshwater ecosystems change over time.

Accessible at https://www.sdg661.app/home, the platform comprises unique, first-of-a-kind water datasets that allow users to visualise dynamic changes to permanent and seasonal surface waters, reservoirs, lake water quality, wetlands and mangroves.

As decisions on freshwater are made by different levels of government, these data can also be visualised at various scales, ranging from the national scale to small individual watersheds and lakes.

“As the world deals with the devastation caused by (COVID-19), it is important that countries continue to make progress on their environmental commitments, which ultimately have the potential to prevent future natural disasters,” said Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in a press release dated 20 July 2020.

“We hope that this platform, which allows for continuity in reporting, will meaningfully contribute to decision-making to improve countries’ freshwater ecosystems,” she added.

‘Freshwater Ecosystems Explorer’ is developed in April 2020 for the Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 (SDG6) global data drive by UNEP, in partnership with Google and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

At present, UN member states are engaging with the platform to review its national data before UNEP delivers official statistical reports to the UN’s Statistical Division.

SDG6 focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Under this goal is Target 6.6, which aims to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, such as mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

Progress on Target 6.6 is monitored through Indicator 6.6.1, which looks at the change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time.

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